BRAVADO DOESN'T PAY 'I am in charge here.' For once, the boast wasn't uttered by a triad thug but a police sergeant arresting one (below). This was one incident among several - there were between three and nine instances, depending on which newspaper you read - last weekend, when police were taunted and challenged by groups of triads across Hong Kong, when they tried to break up fights and make arrests. This has become more frequent in recent months. Police public-relations minders are suggesting triads have been advised by their lawyers that verbal abuse against officers in public is not an offence. This has led to calls by police unions for greater powers to make arrests. All this public bravado hurts no one but the big brothers. Why? Because the police lose face, so what they almost always do the next night is to make a district-wide anti-vice sweep, picking up dozens of ladies from the north, temporarily closing nightclubs, love motels and body-massage saunas. In other words, they punish the businesses that line the pockets of the big brothers for the misbehaviour of their little brothers. And this time, the triads have really done it. Guess who is the new number one in Kowloon West, where all vices known to man are concentrated: assistant police commissioner Michael Dowie, whose reputation as a triadbuster precedes him because of his crackdown in New Territories South. A LETTER TO A YOUNG TRIAD Dear brother, Why have you been taunting cops lately when they haven't been bothering you? Isn't there enough trouble and pressure already in your life? You may feel obliged every time you walk past a cop to give him the finger and ask about his mother when what you really want is a cold bottle of beer and to watch that Man U match you have just bet $10,000 on in a nice quiet bar corner. This social obligation to taunt cops is particularly strong when you are among other triads. I understand peer pressure. I know your lawyers have told you taunting a cop is not an offence in Hong Kong, blah, blah, blah. But I gotta tell you, it's not good for your criminal career prospects because it ends up hurting the businesses of your big brothers and their bosses. They don't take kindly to losing money. Your lifestyle is very bad for your health. No, I don't mean the obvious gang fights where you are liable to have a few fingers or even a limb or two hacked off. I mean the high-pressure stuff that will surely grind down anyone. You go thermonuclear when a taxi or a minibus cuts you up in the road. You feel your manhood challenged when someone stares at you one nanosecond too long. And then there is all the meat, boiled intestines and fish balls heavy with preservatives you eat for free every day, courtesy of the restaurants and street hawkers under your protection. Oh yes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart diseases are free too. Maybe that's why they are happy to feed you the stuff. So relax, get a grip. Next time you see a cop, just ignore him. If he wants to check your ID, take it out for him, and smile. Yours faithfully, AL, Hong Kong resident GRIT OF TRUTH New York Times reporter Jayson Blair (right), 27, this week becomes the latest journalist to enter the profession's Hall of Infamy. The enterprising and creative young man made up facts, people and/or quotes in at least half of the 73 stories he wrote since October for the Times' national desk. More acts of journalistic fraud may be unearthed as an internal investigation continues. I admit I felt a certain schadenfreude when I first read the Times' self-flagellation on its website and its excruciating line-by-line analysis of some of Blair's more outrageous inventions. More than two decades ago, Washington Post writer Janet Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize for a profile of a non-existent eight-year-old crack addict. Closer to home, Sudden Weekly reporter Lau Hau-wai, then 19, confessed in 1996 to conspiring with a friend to fabricate a taped conversation. In it, a church member claimed she heard tycoon Dickson Poon said he had cancer but his Christian faith cured him. Lau published a novel at a tender age before he took up journalism. All these episodes are bad, not only for the profession but also the public. They reinforce a perception that journalists make up stories all the time. Actually all three were talented writers, full of drive and ambition, so they were actually quite rare in our profession. Most of us hacks don't have the energy for that. We may embellish a bit - 'add the salt and vinegar', as we say in Cantonese - but there is truth in what we report. As Evelyn Waugh wrote in Scoop, there is usually 'an embryo truth, a little grit of fact, like the core of a pearl, round which have been deposited the delicate layers of ornament'. It's that 'embryo' that serves the public interest, even if everything else may be junk. NOT BLOWING YOUR OWN It seems growing pot and using a bit of the stuff doesn't automatically bar you from being re-employed at Chinese University. Architect and the university's contract lecturer, Christophe Rene Pierre Barthelemy, was fined $13,000 at Kwun Tong court on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to two charges of growing marijuana and possession of a dangerous drug. Police found an elaborate set-up when they raided his Sai Kung flat on February 22 this year, including a greenhouse, sprinklers, heating lights, 14 marijuana branches and 0.37 of a gram of pot. I wonder what his electricity bills amounted to. His lawyer told the court his client was not a drug addict, that he had an active interest in gardening and the illegal plants were grown for research purposes. It's not clear how his 'research' related to architecture. A university spokeswoman said his one-year contract ended last month but it has not been decided whether it would be renewed. 'It depends on whether we need the extra manpower and his particular area of expertise. The [rehiring] process has not started,' she said. Everyone deserves a second chance, don't they?